Waterproof cameras have the reputation of not being the greatest (to say it lightly) when it comes to photo quality. They have been primarily known and promoted for one obvious feature.
But the technology of waterproof cameras has improved dramatically in the last year. Instead of just being known as "waterproof cameras," now there's a long list of stellar ultra-compact models that include "waterproof" as one of many onboard features.
Here's a look at five cameras that will deliver great photos, can be brought underwater and cost you $350 or less. And don't forget to check out our tips of how to use these special cameras when going underwater this summer.
Samsung AQ100 The most budget-friendly of this group, Samsung's AQ100 (a.k.a. Samsung WP10) was announced earlier this year. The 12.2-megapixel AQ100 looks simple, but its photo specs actually outshine its waterproof ability a bit. This one can handle watery depths up to 9.8 feet, and its ultra-slim frame should fit easily into any pocket or day bag, making it a great companion for any basic underwater travel adventures. With ISO up to 3200, 5x optical zoom, 720p HD video recording ability and a 2.7-inch LCD screen, it should serve you just fine above water as well. Lowest Price: $179.99
Pentax Optio W90 Pentax's Optio W90 is an extremely rugged, ultra-compact camera that is ready to handle more than just a few drops of water. Along with being waterproof for depths as low as 20 feet, the Optio W90 is also shockproof, dustproof and freezeproof. The 12.1-megapixel point-and-shoot has some specs that are impressive for any camera of its size, including a 2.7-inch TFT color LCD with anti-reflective coating, and ISO range of 80 - 6400, and the ability to record 720p HD video at 30fps. The design isn't the sleekest, but it will take some tumbles and serve you just fine. And if black and green aren't your favorite shades, Pentax recently updated the color options to include orange (pictured). That should surely stand out underwater. Lowest Price: $249.95
Canon PowerShot D10 Released last summer, Canon's first entry into the waterproof camera market is still a solid choice. The PowerShot D10 sports a 12.1-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch CCD sensor that is safe within the waterproof casing up to 33 feet underwater. Reviews for photo quality are solid, with plenty of white balance and color effect options to choose from as well. The only downside is that the unusual, submarine-esque design looks a bit like a fish out of water when on land. (Excuse the pun, but I couldn't help it.) Lowest Price: $265.95
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX5 Sony has proved that waterproof shooters don't have to look rugged and bulky, but they can also be sleek, colorful and stylish. Color is actually a good option for waterproof cameras as it is easier to spot underwater, whether you're looking for your travel companion or your camera somehow got away from you. Like the Samsung AQ100, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX5 was announced in February in time for summer. Available in five shades, the specs aren't as high some of the other cameras on this list, as the 10.2-megapixel DSC-TX5 has 4x optical zoom and is waterproof up to 10 feet. But it is durable being dustproof, freezeproof and shockproof, plus there is also 720p HD video recording mode and HDMI output to show off all your fancy underwater action on the big screen in the living room when you get home. Lowest Price: $295.95
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2 Panasonic's Lumix DMC-TS2 is a stellar options on the ground and underwater. Making it to my colleague Janice Chen's list of the top 10 compact digital cameras of 2010, you can't go wrong with this one. You've got the usual quartet of rugged details here: freezeproof, dustproof, shockproof and (of course) waterproof. This one can also take the big plunge to 33 feet underwater. Specs are top-notch on this 14.1-megapixel shooter with 720p HD video recording (even in AVCHD Lite), a Leica DC lens with 9.8x extra optical zoom, ISO from 80 to 6400, and a slew of preset functions to choose from including "underwater." Design is a bit of a mixed bag here, as Panasonic has tried to fashion something stylish and colorful yet still with a rugged exterior. Lowest Price: $299.99